Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Show Summary Details
More options …

Linguistics Vanguard

A Multimodal Journal for the Language Sciences

Editor-in-Chief: Bergs, Alexander / Cohn, Abigail C. / Good, Jeff

CiteScore 2018: 0.95

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2018: 0.381
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2018: 0.841

See all formats and pricing
More options …

Ageism and interactional (mis)alignment: Using micro-discourse analysis in the interpretation of everyday talk in a hair-salon

Rachel HeinrichsmeierORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9433-9317
Published Online: 2019-06-22 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingvan-2018-0031


In the fifty years since Robert Butler coined the term, ageism remains one of the most widely-experienced forms of discrimination in Europe. Some forms of ageism seem overt and easy-to-identify; in many cases, though, it is invisible and deeply rooted in everyday life. This applies, too, to ageism-in-interaction, which, as I argue in this paper, can be very subtle, deeply embedded in a web of routines and expectations generated over a longer interactional history.

I illustrate this embeddedness of ageism-in-interaction by focussing, as a case-study, on an encounter in a hair-salon between an 83-year-old woman and her stylist, aspects of which we might initially be tempted to attribute to the stylist’s orientations to the client’s (older) age. However, as I show, closer scrutiny of the emergent interaction, combined with progressive widening of the analysis to encompass data outside this focal exchange, suggests more nuanced understandings of what is going on. As I also aim to show, the nose-to-data attention to the emergent interactions in this case-study, informed by conversation analysis and combined with wider ethnographic knowledge, is the tool-kit we need to reveal the less visible instances of ageism-in-interaction.

Keywords: language; ageing; everyday ageism; interactional sociolinguistics; being busy


  • Age UK. 2011. Grey matters – a survey of ageism across Europe (EU briefing and policy recommendations, 11). London: Age UK.Google Scholar

  • Andrews, Molly. 1999. The seductivess of agelessness. Ageing & Society 19(3). 301–318.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Antaki, Charles. 2012. What actions mean, to whom, and when. Discourse Studies 14(4). 493–498.Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Arminen, Ilkka. 2000. On the context sensitivity of institutional interaction. Discourse & Society 11(4). 435–458.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Auer, Peter. 2005. Projection in interaction and projection in grammar. In Text – Interdisciplinary Journal for the Study of Discourse 25(1). 7–36.Google Scholar

  • Benwell, Bethan & Elizabeth Stokoe. 2006. Discourse and identity. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.Google Scholar

  • Bolden, Galina B. 2006. Little words that matter: Discourse markers “so” and “oh” and the doing of other-attentiveness in social interaction. Journal of Communication 56. 661–688.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Briggs, Charles. 1998. Notes on a ‘confession’: On the construction of gender, sexuality, and violence in an infanticide case’. Pragmatics 7(4). 519–546.Google Scholar

  • Butler, Robert N. 1975. Why survive? Being old in America. Baltimore, USA: The John Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar

  • Bytheway, Bill, Richard Ward, Caroline Holland & Sheila Peace. 2007. Too old. Older people’s accounts of discrimination, exclusion and rejection. A report from the research on age discrimination project (road) to help the aged. London: Open University and Help the Aged.Google Scholar

  • Coupland, Nikolas. 2014 [2001]. Age in social and sociolinguistic theory. In N. Coupland, S. Sarangi & C. Candlin (eds.), 185–212. Sociolinguistics and social theory (language in social life). London: Taylor and Francis.Google Scholar

  • Coupland, Nikolas & Justine Coupland. 1993. Discourses of ageism and anti-ageism. Journal of Aging Studies 7(3). 279–301.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • De Fina, Anna. 2003. Identity in narrative. A study of immigrant discourse. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.Google Scholar

  • De Fina, Anna. 2013. Positioning level 3. Connecting local identity displays to macro social processes. Narrative Inquiry 23(1). 40–61.CrossrefWeb of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Essed, Philomena. 1991. Understanding everyday racism: An interdisciplinary theory. London, England: Sage Publications.Google Scholar

  • Goffman, Erving. 1959. The presentation of self in everyday life. London: Penguin.Google Scholar

  • Grainger, Karen. 2004. Communication and the institutionalized elderly. In J.F. Nussbaum & J. Coupland (eds.), Handbook of communication and aging research, 479–497. Mahwah, New Jersey, London: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.Google Scholar

  • Holland, Caroline & Richard Ward. 2012. On going grey. In V. Ylänne (ed.), Representing ageing. Images and identities, 115–131. Basingstoke UK, New York USA: Palgrave Macmillan UK.Google Scholar

  • Jansson, Gunilla. 2016. ‘You’re doing everything just fine’: Praise in residential care settings. Discourse Studies 18(1). 64–86.Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Jefferson, Gail. 1978. Sequential aspects of story-telling in conversation. In J. Schenkein (ed.), Studies in the organisation of conversational interaction, 219–248. New York: Academic Press.Google Scholar

  • Jefferson, Gail. 2004. Glossary of transcript symbols with an introduction. In G.H. Lerner (ed.), Conversation analysis: Studies from the first generation, 13–31. Amsterdam & Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.Google Scholar

  • Jolanki, Outi Hannele. 2004. Moral argumentation in talk about health and old age. Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine 8(4). 483–503.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • McCarthy, Michael. 2000. Mutually captive audiences: Small talk and the genre of close-contact service encounters. In J. Coupland (ed.), Small talk, 84–109. Harlow, Essex: Pearson Education Limited.Google Scholar

  • Nikander, Pirjo. 2009. Doing change and continuity: Age identity and the micro–macro divide. Ageing & Society 29(Special Issue 06). 863–881.Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Peräkylä, Anssi & Sanna Vehviläinen. 2003. Conversation analysis and the professional stocks of interactional knowledge. Discourse & Society 14(6). 727–750.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Rampton, Ben. 2006. Language in late modernity. Interaction in an urban school. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Web of ScienceGoogle Scholar

  • Raymond, Geoffrey. 2003. Grammar and social organization: Yes/no interrogatives and the structure of responding. American Sociological Review 68(6). 939–967.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Sacks, Harvey. 1995. Lectures on conversation. Malden, MA, Oxford UK and Carlton, Victoria: Blackwell Publishing.Google Scholar

  • Sacks, Harvey, A. Emanuel Schegloff & Gail Jefferson. 1974. A simplest systematics for the organization of turn-taking for conversation. Language 50(4.1). 696–735.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Schegloff, Emanuel A. 2005. On complainability. Social Problems 52(4). 449–476.CrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Sidnell, Jack & Tanya Stivers (eds.). 2013. The handbook of conversation analysis. Malden MA, Oxford, Chichester: Wiley Blackwell Publishing Ltd.Google Scholar

  • Sophieh. 2007. The art of salon small talk. In Hairdressers Journal interactive (online): Reed Business Information.Google Scholar

  • Stivers, Tanya. 2008. Stance, alignment, and affiliation during storytelling: When nodding is a token of affiliation. Research on Language and Social Interaction 41(1). 31–57.Web of ScienceCrossrefGoogle Scholar

  • Stivers, Tanya. 2013. Sequence organization. In J. Sidnell & T. Stivers (eds.), The handbook of conversation analysis, 191–209. Malden MA, Oxford, Chichester: Blackwell Publishing Ltd.Google Scholar

About the article

Received: 2018-05-14

Accepted: 2018-12-04

Published Online: 2019-06-22

Citation Information: Linguistics Vanguard, Volume 5, Issue s2, 20180031, ISSN (Online) 2199-174X, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/lingvan-2018-0031.

Export Citation

©2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston.Get Permission

Comments (0)

Please log in or register to comment.
Log in